The Common Cold

Editor:s Note: The article last week titled “To Treat or Not to Treat” was authored by Rodett Osorio, P.A.

By Gilda Morales, ANP, DC

“You would think that if we could send a man to the moon, we could find a cure for the common cold.” This saying has been around since 1969, and there is still no cure for the cold, although the symptoms can be treated.  The common cold is caused by a rhinovirus, which does not respond to antibiotics, as any virus does not.  Although a cold will make one feel miserable, it is self-limiting, meaning that if even if one does nothing, or takes nothing, the symptoms will resolve in 7 to 10 days.

Even so, patients are under the mistaken impression that there is a “shot” that will miraculously stop the cold dead in its tracks.  Nothing could be further from the truth. Although corticosteroids will help those patients that have concurrent asthma problems resulting in difficulty breathing, they will not shorten the course of the cold.  Antibiotics are ineffective in treating a cold as well, since colds are viral.  However, if there is a secondary infection, which commonly occurs in the elderly or immunocompromised, antibiotics can be lifesaving.

There are many measures that a cold patient can take to make his illness more tolerable.  The most important is to rest, since fatigue decreases the effectiveness of the immune system. Increasing fluid intake thins mucus secretions, making it easier to cough or blow them out.  Care should be taken when choosing over-the-counter cold medications especially if the patient has high blood pressure or diabetes, since many contain ingredients that can raise both.  Watch for the BP label on all over-the-counter medications, indicating that it is safe in patients taking blood pressure medication.

Although the symptoms of a cold can cause misery to the point that a visit to the doctor appears reasonable, remember that a cold will last 7 days, unless one goes to the doctor, in which case it will last a week.   Soup, juice, rest, are the best medicine.